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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ralph Waldo Emerson on the decline of the Ottoman Empire

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13 percent – percentage of Americans who identify as Muslim

In January 1963, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that the decline of the Ottoman Empire was “an alarm.” Americans listened.

“Perhaps we shall find that we must be weaned off the poison of monarchy,” he wrote. “Perhaps we shall seek a suitor just like the people of Turkey, no court prince and all, and such a suitor shall be heralded for us in a revolution.”

Last week, three journalists were arrested in Turkey on suspicion of plotting against the government. The State Department said they were journalists covering their country’s most important issue.

“I wish the Turkish government would do some things right here,” Mr. Emerson concluded. “Turkey is a major country, and it is doing a very bad thing to a very great danger.”

The writer was a prolific writer in the early 20th century, including novels, poems and essays, many of which were critical of the ambitions of Turkey’s powerful rulers.

He inspired both admiration and derision during his lifetime, sparking one of the country’s first controversies after his death. His books featured explicit scenes of sex and profanity, and a passage published in the New York Times described him as “this talkative American, full of malice, insincerity, weakness and shame, in whom an unknown heart is always preening; unable to rise above the fun-loving juvenile of the brimming youthful hour.”

A copy of Emerson’s sonnet, “The Turkish Empire,” sold in 2011 for $104,000 at Christie’s in London. There was no public bidding for the poem’s original version.

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